Citizenship

Although the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are fixtures in American culture and were established at the founding of the democracy, there is still no guidance for the people who are ultimately responsible for establishing, enforcing, and maintaining the rule of law.

Given the importance of these tasks comprising self governance, it’s essential to actively identify and delineate the responsibilities that rest with the populace and must be carried out through individual and collective action.

Unifying vision

A list of responsibilities could provide guidance for the American people taking on the difficult task of advancing and maintaining a just and lasting society. It could guide the everyday actions of people, as well as the work of leaders building consensus and overseeing decisions.

A list of civic requirements — a bill of responsibilities — can serve as a vision for the aspirations of a nation. It can help people contribute to their communities and how to see themselves as part of a nation of millions. 

Describing what is expected of each other will help define what it means to be an American. It will inspire civic pride and illuminate the idea that responsibilities are as central to freedom as rights.

Modern project

In a free society, no person can be told how to be a good citizen. However, the people can take on the challenge of finding consensus on the key aspects of good citizenship.

Modern Populace is committed to advancing discussion about the value and importance of establishing a list of civic responsibilities.

To contribute to this effort, we put forth for consideration the following draft of citizen responsibilities. The expectations are lofty, however each person is not required to champion every prescription. These responsibilities are held collectively by the entire populace and are actions and ideals to which most individuals can make meaningful contributions.

Send your constructive feedback regarding this project and the following draft bill to Robert Beets (beets@modernpopulace.org). Thank you.

Bill of citizen responsibilities

The people of the United States of America, through individual and collective action, executed directly or as the result of the decisions or policies of organized bodies, are responsible for maintaining conduct and enacting and administering laws that promote a just and lasting society. To satisfy this responsibility, the people of this nation shall promote a culture that is guided by principles of citizenship, and to the best of their abilities:

  • Uphold, strengthen, and expand upon the rights afforded to people by the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other binding declarations.
  • Exhibit virtue and civility toward other people equally and in accordance with common laws and reasonable expectations while pursuing personal and professional interests or when serving as an agent of the state — including as a fair and impartial juror, judge, lawmaker, administrator, or officer of the law.
  • Preserve, maintain and advance — for the welfare of all people — the agency and utility of social and natural systems, and the conditions essential for a dignified and sustainable existence.
  • Defend against assaults or limitations on people, their liberties, or the mechanics of a healthy society from any domestic or foreign persons, bodies, or nations that intend harm or unwittingly cause distress.
  • Strive to understand matters important to their communities and the affairs of the nation, and contribute their expertise and experience to public discourse, policymaking, and governance.
  • Empower competent and virtuous leaders, and continually demand their accountability by voting, organizing to advance causes, and defining the expectations of government.

Draft version November 2020